A Trans-continental Wine Journey

On holiday in South America, the Bruwer family waited for their room to be readied and the guest house owner suggested they pass the time in a nearby coffee shop.

‘Loath to drink coffee in the late afternoon, we asked if there was a cold wine available. A bottle was produced from a back room which we gratefully accepted and not wanting to hinder further, we didn’t ask about varietal or vintage,’ said the Bruwers.

‘Much to our surprise, the wine we drank that afternoon in a dusty small town in South America, in Uruguay, was a revelation. Complex, rich in texture yet with an acidity that had our palates dancing; our first taste of Albarino was an unforgettable one.’

Back home at their Springfield Estate at Robertson, the Bruwers ‘immediately set about trying to get our hands on this magical grape variety. As Albarino – a Portuguese variety – was not yet available, we’d need to import the plant material, in vitro.’ A massive bureaucratic, years long, project.

‘But Lady Luck took our hand. The Newton Johnson family (the grower-producers of world acclaimed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Upper Hemel en Aarde outside Hermanus) were on a similar pursuit and catching wind of our plans graciously offered us some of their cuttings. This handful of stock has slowly multiplied. And the maiden vintage (2018) did not disappoint our memory of that revelatory afternoon in a dusty town.’

I recently tasted this ‘new’ Springfield white and believe the Bruwers haven’t yielded to marketing hyperbole when they describe it as ‘redolent of apricot, nectarine and white flowers with saline minerality and bright acidity.’

Its palate-lifting quality is all the more appetizing on account of this heart-warming, inspirational story of the generosity, humour and spirit of adventure and innovation of two Cape wine families.

We hope to list it soon at Simbithi.

Another in the ‘recently tasted’ department – and surfing beyond where most of us at Simbithi are happy to paddle – in the casual I-know-what-I-like, it’s-all-more-or- less-okay-if-the-price-is-right school of wine appreciation.

We were stranded briefly in the stately, history-steeped Alsace city of Strasbourg, the EU parliamentary capital and culturally neither completely French nor completely German but scrapped over - and frequently switched between the two - since 1648.

We should have been cruising Rhine but needed the snow-depleted Alps to yield just a bit more water to get us afloat. So, obliged to seek gastronomic relief ashore at a concierge-recommended Chez Yvonne (local onion tarte, tongue of veal, cossetted in spaetzle etc.,) we chose a five year-old Riesling from a nearby village, Bergbieten, named Otto Schmitt Altenberg. It’s a tiny, bio-farmed 7 ha. vineyard, where the sold-out sign goes up for months at a time.

I could try to scramble together a bit more befuddling wine yada yada stuff but my usually monosyllabic, outwardly sternly saturnine brother-in-law (masking a lightning wit) Prof Andrew Duminy, tasted and pronounced: “Now, look here, this is what I call a fine wine.’

Madame Schmitt (pre World War II that would be Frau) says competition in France is ‘very severe, so raising prices is a big risk.’ Pleased to hear it. We paid a R613 for a bottle. My best wine of the 2018, worth every Euro. You see equivalent quality at four times that in yada yada land.